Smoke from Russian forest fires reaches North Pole for the first time


Smoke from the wildfires in Russia has reached the North Pole for the first time since recordings began, with activists warning that the situation is unlikely to improve until the second half of August.

Satellite images released by the US space agency Nasa show pockets of dark gray smoke drifting about three thousand kilometers from their origin in Yakutia in far eastern Russia.

The smoke covered a large area stretching from northern Siberia to Mongolia, with 1,200 towns and villages affected in Krasnoyarsk Krai alone.

The center of the blaze, Yakutia, is currently experiencing the worst forest fires in its history, with nearly four million hectares still on fire. A fire covers an area of ​​up to 1 million. hectares, also a record.

Experts say the situation will worsen over the next few days, as the strong wind and dry weather sets in. The hope is that the rain at the end of August may bring some respite – but none of this is certain.

Grigory Kuskin, who heads Greenpeace Russia’s firefighting service, told The Independent that the situation in Yakutia in particular is progressing on a worst-case basis. A number of new villages and oil storage facilities are under threat, he said.

On Monday, Yakutia’s local administration extended the state of emergency as fires began to encroach on new populated localities in the region.

Three dozen houses were reportedly destroyed in Byas-Kyuyol, a rural town 160 kilometers from the regional capital Yakutsk.

Vladimir Putin, who inspected firefighting efforts in the Chelyabinsk region last week, ordered the government to ease budget constraints during the emergency. Regional governments have long complained about underfunding for firefighting services, with Yakutia in particular saying it only received a tenth of what it asked for.

Smoke from forest fires is visible above the small town of Kysyl-Syr


Mr Kuskin says officials appear to recognize the warnings presented by this year’s fires. In comments to the press, the president himself acknowledged a direct link to climate change and ordered Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to find more money for emergency relief efforts.

“We finally understand that climate change creates real dangers and that the old approach is not working,” Kuskin of Greenpeace told The Independent.

A key question ahead of climate change negotiations is whether Russia will adopt the preferred tactics of the United States and Australia, which allow controlled wood fires, or that of neighboring Finland, which seeks to reduce them. to zero.

“Officials may consider the cheapest option the best, but it is the wrong approach given the current climate change,” Kuskin said.

“Remember, Finland was once part of the Russian Empire and it was burning like we are burning now. Finland is not burning. I want us to be like Finland.”

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